Beacon Street Blog

June 19, 2009

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Charles Chauncey Wells and Suzanne Austin Wells, authors of Preachers, Patriots & Plain Folks: Boston's Burying Ground Guide to King's Chapel, Granary and Central Cemeteries, visited the library on Thursday this week.

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Mr. Wells, in his colonial finery, related some of his favorite stories about the Granary Burial Ground to a packed crowd in the Congregational Library Reading Room. (The talk was part of our brown bag lunch series, free and open to the public.)

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There are a significant number of famous Bostonians in our back yard! Since he only had an hour, Mr. Wells was only able to talk about Phyllis Wheatley, the 18th century poet and member of Old South Church; Sam Adams, John Hancock, Paul Revere, and Benjamin Franklin.

After his talk, Wells guided his audience around the grounds, pointing out more of the notable inhabitants.

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For those interested in learning more about the book, patrons may request the library's copy, or check the following links -- be aware that the Google Book link that provides information about the book, where you can purchase it, and a WorldCat portal that links to library copies.


Google entry
Publisher's purchasing page

June 17, 2009


One of the nice things about staying in the same city where you go to library school, particularly in the case of Simmons/Boston, is that on occasion, you get to stay in touch with people who were in the program with you.

Brian Sullivan, the archivist at Mt. Auburn Cemetery, were both in the Simmons GSLIS program in '98, survived a few shared classes, and have seen each other from time to time over the past 11 years. Yesterday I happened to pick one of the best days ever to get my tour of the repository and grounds yesterday.

We did a quick visit inside to see the climate control, the boxes -- each plot (4-digit number usually) is its own catalog number, but since the grounds opened in 1832, there's still a lot to organize and frame in an archive/researcher-friendly way.


As Brian noted, Mt. Auburn is a very unusual sort of amalgamation of active burial ground, a garden, and an archive. The grounds itself is an archive with some interesting features and pitfalls. Instead of shelvers, there are gardeners. The headstones have preservation issues -- the marble melts away over the years, the slate separates. Families request changes to their plots and presto changeo, the literal landscape is altered. Oh, and sometimes trees fall down.

I would recommend touring the grounds with Brian. He is amazed, awed, enthusiastic, and on 175 acres, I suspect you could take a walk every day for months- years?- and see new things. Particularly when you remember the aforementioned ever-changing landscape and on top of that, changing seasons. He showed me amazing, beautiful, and heart-breaking. I think I overused the word "wow" just a little bit. The size and nature of the grounds are such that it's filled with famous people and particularly famous Congregationalists. I have squeezed a promise from Brian to write as a guest blogger here about someone whose collection we have -- someone yet to be determined.

Thanks, Brian, for the tour and the photos from this post. Be sure to see the thousands of entries at Flickr of the grounds.


June 15, 2009

Peggy and I attended a seminar last Friday on appraising library and archive material. Our presenter, Sid Berger of the Peabody Essex Museum, was quite knowledgeable.

Appraisal means different things depending on if you're talking about a librarian vs. an archivist. When a librarian reviews books, there are many factors, some of which are: what is its physical condition (tight binding, no loose pages), is it in demand, does it fit the collection policy?

When it is an archive collection, the processor is looking to see if there is duplication, what is its current storage condition; does it need to have folders and boxes replaced to keep it in as acid-free environment as possible. Similarly with books, does it fit in the collection policy?

One of Sid's more passionate arguments was that librarians and archivists may not offer a financial appraisal on anything. Ever. This was a point that I remember very clearly from library school. When our job is to preserve and offer access to information, determining its dollar value is a clear conflict of interest. It's also too easy for the unscrupulous to take advantage of any financial appraisal a librarian or archivist would make. It's best to leave those transactions to book dealers.

Inevitably, books must be discarded. They get damaged, they are no longer in demand, they no longer fit the patrons' needs, there are other books out there that are more important, and there is always a limitation on shelf space.

For those who are interested in the humorous side of weeding a library collection, I recommend the Awful Library Books blog. I have been following this site for a few weeks now. It is consistently entertaining, but also helps review why weeding is important and provides a forum for other professionals to discuss the nuances of the de-accessioning craft.

June 11, 2009

The Congregational Library has a sizable collection of materials from the Christian Church. Although the Christian denomination only published national statistics sporadically until the late 19th century, the information contained in them provides lists of churches, and annual reports from regional conferences.

Information that would have been in a 1901 Annual was published in the Herald of Gospel Liberty vol.92, no.21 (Dec. 20, 1900), pp.809-824 as "The Christians' Annual, 1901".

When the General Convention of the Christian Church and the National Association of Congregational Churches merged in 1929, their respective annual publications -- the Christian Annual and the Congregational Year-Book -- also merged to form the Yearbook of the Congregational and Christian Churches.

Links to digitized copies of the Christian Annual can be found on our website under Digital Resources

June 9, 2009

We have just launched a new database of obituary information on Congregational clergy and missionaries; it’s available on our website (under "digital resources"). Patrons may search by last name to find location of thousands of obituaries in Congregational yearbooks and missionary periodicals; yearbook information began in earnest in the mid-1850s and continues on up through the present. Many of the early yearbooks have been digitized and are currently available on Internet Archive.

The Congregational Library also has a large collection of church records and other sources of information about colonial-era clergy. We would be very happy to provide more information about the collection if you wish.

Contact us at

June 9, 2009

Although the Congregational Library does not collect fiction, here are two books recently recommended by friends who know of my interest in the Salem witch trials. If you've read Eve Laplante's book The Salem Witch Judge: the Life and Repentance of Samuel Sewell, these books are lighter and good vacation reading.

Both authors are descendants of families of accused Salem witches. Kathleen Kent has written The Heretic's Daughter and is a descendant of Martha Currier who was hanged in Salem in 1692. The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane is by Katherine Howe whose family included both Elizabeth Proctor and Elizabeth Howe.

Let us know what you think.

Kent Khowe

June 9, 2009

We regret that we are canceling the Church Librarians Lunch on June 13 at the West Parish in Barnstable. We will reschedule at a later date.

June 1, 2009

On June 13, Librarian Claudette Newhall hosts a meeting and luncheon for church librarians. Enjoy lunch and a great opportunity to network and share experiences with your colleagues.

This event will be held at West Parish of Barnstable (built in 1717) and located at 2049 Meetinghouse Road (Route 149) Exit 5 off the Mid-Cape (Route 6), West Barnstable, MA 02668 phone 508.362.4445

Our local host is Shirley Stolte, West Parish church librarian. Please meet at the church at 10:30 am. for a discussion of church library issues. Lunch will follow at a local restaurant. The program is free except the cost of your lunch.

Advance registration is required. Deadline is June 10, 2009.

Call 617-523-0470 or email

May 29, 2009

Beginning May 28, and every other Thursday until September

Explore our historic library with Claudette Newhall as she tells the story of the library and provides visitors with an in-depth tour of the main Reading Room, the Pratt Room, as well as the 'stacks'. During the tour, you will also learn about the building's history, our collections, and the services the Library provides.

Begins at 1:30 p.m. No charge. Reservations requested. 617-523-0470 x 1.


May 27, 2009

I've been teaching a class to help churches deal with keeping and organizing their church records for several years now, but foolishly never came up with templates for a records management policy or a retention schedule. However, thanks to the power of the internet, I was able to find some very lovely documents from the Church of Christ and the United Methodists. Both gentleman I spoke to at the respective agencies were very happy to share their work with me. This is good because it really is all the same thing at a certain level and I hate having to reinvent the wheel. So, again: thank you!

Visit our Records Management Page to see our original Records Management pamphlet and the spiffy new templates.

May 26, 2009

News Item: The follow up lunch for those who've taken the records management class is canceled for this Friday, 5/29 at the Salem Tabernacle Church.

Related ponderings on the cancellation: I started offering this event last year and had a lovely response for the first lunch, and since then folks just aren't signing up. There are a number of possibilities that I can think of for why this is:

  • offered at the wrong time of the week and/or folks too busy
  • financial
  • unclear as to who should attend or why
  • potential participants feel like they need to have made a specific amount of progress on their archive projects
  • publicity not getting to target audience

When it's written out like that, it does seem like a minor miracle that I had anyone attend the first. If you would like to comment on this, please email me directly.

--Jessica Steytler

May 21, 2009

I'm sure you're all very curious to know how the poll is going since we posted that almost a week ago. It turns out that 60% use Facebook, 40% use RSS, and only 20% go directly.

If you haven't filled out the poll yet, please do so -- we'll check it a few more times in the next week and if the results are radically different later, we'll let you know.

May 20, 2009

From the First Annual Report of the Directors of the Congregational Library Association, May 30, 1854:

On Wednesday, at 2 o'clock, P.M., the members of the Association, with their ladies, and other invited guests, sat down to a collation in Fanueuil Hall, which the Directors had prepared in compliance with a provision in the By-laws. Attendance was nearly eight hundred. The blessing was invoked by Rev. William Patton and at the end of the collation the assembly sang "Praise God from whom all blessings flow," under the direction of Lowell Mason, Esq. The speaking then commenced. Association President, Rev. William T. Dwight gave a short introductory address and was followed by short addresses given by Rev. Calvin E. Stowe, Hon. Charles T. Russell, Rev. E. N. Kirk, Hon. J. V. C. Smith, Rev. Edward Beecher, Rev. R. S. Storrs, Rev. Truman M. Post, Alpheus Hardy, Esq., Lowell Mason, Esq., Rev. Heman Humphrey, Governor Washburn, Julius A. Palmer, Esq., Rev. R. Anderson, Rev. A. L. Stone.

At precisely five o'clock, P.M., the President announced that the hour for closing these festivities had arrived. The venerable Rev. Lyman Beecher offered a closing prayer. This was the First Collation of the Congregational Library Association.

May 15, 2009

If our lovely viewing audience would be so kind as to follow this link to a survey that will tell us how you get to these posts, as we suspect it's not just in the traditional via Typepad's URL. We will be using the results at our annual meeting in a few weeks.

Thanks! Click here to take survey.

May 11, 2009

Eliot Bible title page

The first Bible printed in America is a translation of the Old and New Testaments into the Algonquin language by John Eliot (1604-1690), “Apostle to the Indians". Rev. Eliot worked on his translation for over 10 years before the New Testament portion was issued from the press of Samuel Green, Cambridge, Mass. in 1661. This translation was of a language without a written tradition. The printing of the Old Testament took three years, and was finished in 1663. To make a complete Bible, it was bound up with the New Testament and the Psalms of David (the latter in verse form, translated from the English of the New England psalm book). A thousand copies were printed. Because many copies were destroyed in the wars of the 1670s, a new edition of the New Testament was printed in 1680 and a new Old Testament in 1685. Two thousand copies of the latter were printed. Eliot published his Indian Grammar in 1666.

John Eliot was pastor in Roxbury for 58 Years. Eliot was one of a few ministers who served as a missionary to American Indians in New England, and he organized several "praying towns" -- communities of converted Indians—in Massachusetts including one in Natick. Eliot was one of the few early settlers to believe that Indians had souls. He preached his first sermon in the Algonguin language in 1646 at Nonantum, now Newton.

The Eliot Bible appeared some 120 years before the first complete English edition of the Bible was published in what is now the United States.

Eliot is also credited with being one of the editors of the Bay Psalm Book and a supporter of the Society of the Propagation of the Gospel in New England (the first Protestant Missionary Society) -- created to convert the New England Indians.

In 1961, the ACA sent the Eliot Bible to England. The Bible was defective, lacking pages at the beginning and end. A facsimile title page, the first two pages of Genesis and two pages in between the testaments were printed and the book bound in antique leather.

May 6, 2009

Thanks to the fantastic work of this semester's interns, plus my own diligence, our web site and online catalog has a number of newly organized collections. The following descriptions are pulled from the finding aids.

Hopkinton, New Hampshire - First Church. Records, 1757-1909. The archive assisted the Hopkinton church get these records microfilmed over the past many months; this collection is in microfilm form. The church maintains the original ledgers. Within the four volumes, there are records for membership (including admission/dismission), baptisms, deaths, marriages, meetings; the final volume includes the lists of ministers and deacons.

Charles Addison Richardson. Correspondence, 1794, 1798, 1848-1872. This collection is part of the Small Collections, which don't normally have guides of their own, however this Congregationalist editor's papers are a collection of letters; the guide is an index of who the correspondence is from.

Wendell, Massachusetts. Congregational Church. Records, 1783-1953. Last fall's intern, Kim Kinder organized these papers. Even though the church was relatively small throughout its life, it contributed to foreign missions as well as domestic, assisting in the mission work in China. The church belonged to the Franklin Association of Congregational Churches and worked closely with the Massachusetts Home Missionary Society to call and fund its ministers.


Intern Colleen Mahoney's contributions:

Henry Boynton Papers, 1824-1866. The Rev.Boynton served in Vermont, New York New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. He was a member of the Anti-Slavery Society, and gave sermons on their behalf.

This collection includes 100 hand-written sermons and documents composed by Boynton between 1824 and 1858. Sermon topics include: slavery, prejudice, temperance, and missionary work. This collection also includes Boynton’s ledger book of marriage records, which includes records of weddings he performed between 1832 and 1866.

This collection came from the estate of Miss Ada Y. Harris of Bridgewater, New York, a descendant of Dr. William Yeats of Butternuts (Morris), New York. It was purchased by the Congregational Library in October 2008.

General Conference of the German Evangelical Congregational Churches of the United States. Records, 1883-1971. The General Conference of the German Evangelical Congregational Churches of the United States of America was founded in Crete, Nebraska in 1883, with the goal of improving communication and collaboration among German churches across the American west. This collection includes the incorporation records, minutes, correspondence, and some publications of the General Conference.

Massachusetts Conference. Essex South; Essex North. Records and Minutes, 1827-1972. The library had Essex records for years, but they had been in several separate collections. When the library acquired new material in 2008, we were motivated to consolidate. Includes the following five sub-sections: Essex South Association; Essex South Branch Missionary Association; Essex South Conference of Churches; Essex South South County Branch, Woman's Board of Missions, Executive Committee, also known as Essex South District; Essex North Association.


Konstancja Sinczak's contribution:

Massachusetts Council of Churches. Records, 1887-Present. Kasia organized the photographs -- Photographs of the activities of MCC and MCC affiliated groups. New analog additions dating after 2006 are not expected in any great volume due to the favoring of digital technologies. A more in depth guide to the photographs has been appended to this guide. The main guide now includes an overview of photograph subjects, as well as a more in-depth list. Both are appended to the web page version of the guide (link above).

April 29, 2009

This was written by Simmons student, Colleen Mahoney. Today is her last day of her internship. Many thanks for all her hard work.

When people ask me what I’m going to school for, and I tell them I’m studying to be an archivist, I usually get blank stares back. A what? My stock response has become, “You know, like the girl in National Treasure,” which usually gets people far more excited. Sometimes I feel a bit misleading for comparing my future career with a character from an adventure movie. But spending this past semester as an intern at the Congregational Library has helped me realize that my explanation really isn’t that far from the truth.

My first project this semester was preparing a new collection the Library purchased so that it would be available for use. The Reverend Henry Boynton was a traveling Congregational minister who served churches in New York, Vermont, and Connecticut in the decades leading up to the Civil War. This collection included dozens of his handwritten sermons, each annotated with the dates and places where it was delivered. These sermons were by far the oldest documents I had ever handled at that point, and I was a bit awed reading through Boynton's sermons supporting abolition and temperance. Their subject matter serves as a reminder of our nation’s past, and the importance of preserving our history.

One of my other projects this semester involved going through the archive’s "Small Collections". Small Collections is the group of individual items that the CL has collected that don’t belong in a larger group -- individual letters, journals, sermons, and the like. In some cases, the archive has since acquired larger collections that individual items can be integrated with, or they would better serve our patrons by being located in another section. Going through each item and deciding where to relocate it to was in many ways like a treasure hunt. There was also an incredibly wide range of materials in this collection -- the autograph collection of a nineteenth century minister which included the signatures of such figures as Thomas Jefferson and Lyman Beecher, a letter from British Prime Minister David Lloyd George following World War I in which he encouraged greater cooperation between American and British ministers, and the financial records of a colonial Congregational minister who kept meticulous track of his expenditures.

There may not be any high speed chases or life-or-death crises at the Congregational Library, but the opportunity to help preserve this important aspect of American history has been an exciting opportunity.  I may be in the minority, but I would take a collection of sermons eloquently addressing real problems our nation faced over a treasure map any day.

April 27, 2009

Jonathan Mayhew

Jonathan Mayhew (October 8, 1720 – July 9, 1766) was a noted American clergyman and minister at Old West Church in Boston. Mayhew was born at Martha’s Vineyard, being a descendant of Thomas Mayhew (1592-1682), an early settler and the grantee (1641) of Martha's Vineyard. Jonathan’s father, Experience Mayhew (1673-1758), was active as a missionary among the Indians of Martha’s Vineyard and the vicinity. The Mayhews were also involved with the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in New England.

Mayhew graduated from Harvard in 1744. So liberal were his theological views that when he was to be ordained minister of the West Church in Boston in 1747, only two ministers attended the first council called for the ordination, and it was necessary to summon a second council. Mayhew's preaching made his church practically the first Unitarian Congregational church in New England, though it was never officially Unitarian.

Rev. Mayhew was opposed to the Stamp Act and is credited by John Adams as the author of the phrase, "no taxation without representation." Another of his quotes is "Extremes are dangerous."

In 1952 his portrait was taken to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston for identification of the artist. The evidence from the Annual meeting report of 1875 stated the portrait was a gift in 1875 from Robert Dunning, Esq. of Georgetown, DC. The result of the examination authenticated the artist.

Rev. Mayhew’s portrait was painted by John Greenwood (American Colonial Era Painter, 1727-1792) one of the first Colonial portrait painters born in America. John Greenwood was one of that city's most prominent portrait painters during the 1740s, one of the reasons being that he had little competition. Greenwood painted many prominent merchants and members of the clergy. He worked in Boston from about 1745 to 1752. The painting is dated at approximately 1750 and appears to be in its original frame.

April 24, 2009

Edwards chair

Jonathan Edwards (May 26, 1745—August 1, 1801) was a theologian and linguist. Born in Northampton, MA he was the second son of Jonathan Edwards, the elder. He graduated from Princeton in 1765. He was tutor in Princeton (1767-69), and pastor in New Haven, CT (1769 -95). He was dismissed for opposing the Half-Way Covenant. (Only adults with personal experience of conversion were eligible to full membership but that children shared in the covenant of their parents and therefore should be admitted to all the privileges of the church except the Lord's Supper. The question arose (c.1650) whether this privilege should be extended to the children of these children, even though the parents of the second generation may have confessed no experience that brought them into full communion. It was proposed (1657) and adopted (1662) by a church synod that the privileges should be extended.) After serving as pastor in Colebrook, CT (1795 - 99), he went to Schenectady, NY to serve as president of Union College.

Edwards was a pioneer in the historical linguistics of Native North America. He was raised in the community of Stockbridge, MA, where Indian speakers of the Mohegan language were in the majority, and he was fluent in that language. He also acquired first-hand knowledge of other Algonquin and Iroquoian languages.

In 1787, Edwards published a study of the Mohegan language. In it, he presented evidence for the relatedness of Algonquian languages throughout northeastern North America and their distinctness from the neighboring Iroquoian languages.

April 22, 2009

Scrooby desk

From today's Brown Bag lunch series.

In 1606, dissatisfied with the corruption and lapsed nature of the Church of England, religious Separatists in the village of Scrooby broke away from the established church. Scrooby Manor was William Brewster's home and became a meeting place for dissenters. Elder Brewster (1560-1644) led the Separatists (Pilgrims) from Scrooby Parish to Leiden, The Netherlands, and then on to Plymouth Colony. The clerk's desk in the Pratt Room is believed to have been used during Elder Brewster's tenure in Scrooby. The clerk's desk would have been located in the church below the pulpit on the same level as the congregation. It may have been below a reader's desk as well. The Parish Clerk stood or sat facing the congregation, who he led in the responses printed in the Prayer Book. He alos led the "lining of the psalms" and made community announcements from the desk.

In 1900, the desk was presented as a bequeathed to the Library by Charles Carlton Coffin (1823-1896) who obtained the desk from the Parish Clerk's House in Scrooby in 1880. Coffin was an author, journalist, war correspondent, and member of the Massachusetts Legislature 1884-1885.

The following was printed in the Forty-Third Annual Report of the Directors of the American Congregational Association of May 25, 1896: "The desk is doubtless contemporary with those forefathers (Plymouth Pilgrims), for it is reputed to be more than three hundred years old. With its solid oak, its quaint carvings, and its centuries of history, it is an object not to be regarded without emotion."

April 21, 2009

When you work on something day in, day out for weeks or months, you want to share what you've been doing. Particularly if you don't feel like you will be done soon.

Last week I had a major break through on one of these kinds of projects. I'd been running up against a brick wall with it given the size and content (majority of it correspondence). And despite help from one of my interns, Meg, I felt like it would never get done. So, while Meg was on hiatus, I hauled down some untouched boxes and tried to pare things down a bit. The donors are prepared to take the material we do not think fits the collection, so my rationale was figure that out and then when Meg returns, it might be more manageable.

The problem was that where do you draw the line? Even after its drawn, how much organization is enough? Solution: call in the cavalry, a.k.a. my boss. Peggy's not an archivist, but in this case, that's a good thing. As an historian, she sees things a bit differently. Within 10 minutes of me showing her the range of material and what had already been done, a new plan was hatched: stop doing so much. do bare bones and fill in the gaps as I can as it is needed.

Somewhere back in my training, perhaps in most of our training in whatever we do, I felt like I had to never leave anything half done. Then once you signed off, it would never change. Well, the world has shifted, and that's often not realistic. For example, a web site is never entirely done. Most things online are a work in progress that may never be done. Why shouldn't this be true of archive work? What's more important- having it perfect, or having it available? In this case, the former. Now that I have a revised directive, it's very likely that Meg will get to completely finish the big collection and I will be able to reclaim my work space just in time to refill it.


April 16, 2009

Added to the collection: John Calvin's Impact on Church and Society, 1509-2009 by Martin Ernst Hirzel

John CalvinContents: Preface / Thomas Wipf -- Introduction / Martin Ernst Hirzel and Martin Sallmann -- Calvin and the transformation of Geneva / Philip Benedict -- "Loved and feared" : Calvin and the Swiss Confederation / Emidio Campi and Christian Moser -- Calvinism in Europe / Andrew Pettegree -- Calvinism in North America / James D. Bratt -- Calvin's understanding and interpretation of the Bible / Wulfert de Greef -- Calvin's ecclesial theology and human salvation / Christopher L. Elwood -- Election and predestination / Christian Link -- Mutual connectedness as a gift and a task : on John Calvin's understanding of the church / Eva-Maria Faber -- Calvin's ethics / Eric Fuchs -- Calvinism and capitalism / Ulrich H. J. Kortner -- Calvin and religious tolerance / Christoph Strohm -- The contribution of Calvin and calvinism to the birth of modern democracy / Mario Turchetti.
Includes bibliographical references.

April 14, 2009

One of the downsides of having a small staff is that we have to limit how much research we can do for our long distance patrons. For as long as I've been the archivist here, there has always been a list of people I would keep on hand -- freelance researchers for these occasions.

People will make this arrangement when their research requires delving into the resources here that may not be in our online catalog, are not in a digitized form (meaning 99.9% of them thus far), are not available elsewhere (or perhaps just not as completely as we have), and/or require extensive study to determine a big question.

At first it was just two or three of our Association's board members who were also historians. Then after I had been here a while, I called upon the greater New England archivist community. That list went from 3 to 6 or there abouts. Well, after I renewed the call this spring, I have doubled the list. For some reason, I find this to be very gratifying.

It's actually quite rare that I have the occasion of offering the list to our distance researchers, but today I was able to offer that refreshed list for the first time. Ah-hah, I say to myself -- Perhaps part of the reason why I don't get many requests for the list is that people don't realize it exists!

I am here today to tell you that if you are hoping to do research here, but cannot visit, please consider asking me -- Jessica -- for this list. Our standard operating procedure is to let the patron review the names, contact the freelancer and they negotiate the terms.

April 9, 2009

From the Constitution of the American Library Association in 1854: Article 2.

The object of the Association shall be to found and perpetuate a Library of Books, Pamphlets, and Manuscripts, and a collection of Portraits, and whatever else shall serve to illustrate Puritan history, and to promote the general interests of Congregationalism.

In 1864 the Congregational Library Association changed its name to the American Congregational Association.

April 7, 2009

I started working on my script for the first session of Treasures which will be held April 22. Although I had been randomly selecting items to exhibit and discuss, I became aware that at least three of the treasures were connected with Native Americans. Obviously, one of the articles will be the Eliot Bible, a translation of the Bible into the Algonquin language. Can you guess what the others may be?

John Eliot was known as the "Apostle to the Indians" and one of the bas-reliefs on the outside of 14 Beacon Street depicts John Eliot preaching to the Indians, Waban's wigwam, Nonantum, 1642.

Join us at noon on April 22 to view this Bible, the first Bible ever published in America, and hear more about the Treasures of the Congregational Library. Free and open to the public. Bring your lunch.



April 2, 2009

The Congregational Library.

With a name like that, it's a natural assumption to think that we are the institutional library (and archive) of a single institution/denomination. As it turns out, though, we have no direct affiliation with any of the modern-day denominations coming out of the old Congregational tradition, including the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches, the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference, the United Church of Christ, as well as the independent and federated churches.

In fact, our library predates all of those bodies. We were established in 1853, when the largely independent, decentralized Congregational churches were struggling with the prospect of organizing into a structured, national entity. In many ways, the Library is more of a separate historical society; it's owned by a nonprofit organization, the American Congregational Association.

While we do not provide a direct service to any of the various Congregational denominations (all of them have their own separate archives for current material), we do offer services to all of their members. We are in fact the only place in the world where all of those scattered Congregationalists come together into one room -- and we're pretty proud of that fact!

There are other myths that I run across in my work. Look for those in future posts.

March 30, 2009


Until about two weeks ago, I was always a reluctant Facebook user. I joined up in 2007 when a cousin convinced me it would be a great way to keep track of our mutual relatives whom we didn't normally get to talk to. OK, but the format, the signal:noise ratio -- these things kept me from really taking advantage of this tool. I certainly always had reservations with the cavalier measures the Facebook administrators took regarding privacy and their unwillingness to allow users to leave always made me feel like I was living in an Eagles song.

Good Outweighs the Bad -- My tipping points for using Facebook more:

  1. There's the Library's page and its 96 (as of this very moment) fans. Clearly we're reaching people, and I should be involved in providing information to them to keep them interested and make sure the Library's on their radar.
  2. I can write here in Typepad and have it cross-posted on our page, which is very efficient.
  3. For me -- I can look at my homepage and find out what friends and colleagues are doing. Once I hide 99.9% of the quizzes and applications that are listed there, I start to see some good and useful information. Since my husband started using it as his primary social network, that was my major tipping point, and now that I'm in the groove, I have the chance to keep up with not just the classmate from elementary school, Aunt Wendy, but all those archivists that I only see at our regional spring / fall meetings.

Facebook is just a means to an end:

Keeping in touch with colleagues is a goal I've renewed since attending the New England Archivists' spring meeting this past weekend. I somehow forget every time how much I get energized by talking to people in my field. There's always new ideas or opportunities to collaborate, too. While talking to folks, often-times Web 2.0 topics came up, and specifically Facebook. Some were comfortable and active, while others were hesitant as I was just two weeks ago. With that reluctance still fresh in my head, was able to talk about the finer points of the system while remaining sympathetic to the negatives.

I'll probably never be a quiz-taking rah-rah cheerleader for Facebook, but if I can keep the Library's fans a bit more engaged and maintain connections with colleagues, it's worth it.

-Jessica Steytler

March 16, 2009

Join us as we celebrate a new partnership between CCHS and Boston's historic Congregational Library.

Eve LaPlanteOur featured speaker will be author, Eve LaPlante, discussing "Why Congregational History Matters Today". Ms. LaPlante is the author of American Jezabel, a biography of Anne Hutchinson and Salem Witch Judge, a biography of Samuel Sewell.

This event takes place Monday, March 23 at 3:00 p.m. at the Wellesley Hills Congregational Church, 207 Washington Street, Wellesley Hills, MA 0248.

Free and open to the public.

March 13, 2009

Join us at the Hills Church in Wellesley for this workshop with other church librarians.

Claudette Newhall will lead discussions on creating, managing, and promoting your church library/resource center on Saturday, March 21 from 10:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Registration is required. Program fee is $10.

Contact us at 617-523-0470 x 4 or email

March 5, 2009

Join fellow alums from the Records Management class for lunch, networking, and updates on Friday March 20 from 11:30 AM - 1:30 PM at 14 Beacon Street, Boston. Share your projects and find out what your colleagues have been doing with theirs. This is also a time to ask archivist, Jess Steytler, questions that may have come up since the class.

Program fee: $20. Advanced registration required. Email or call 617-523-0470 x 4.

March 4, 2009

Join us at noon on Wednesday, March 18 to hear Dr. Garth M. Rosell discuss his book: The Surprising Work of God : Harold John Ockenga, Billy Graham, and the Rebirth of Evangelicalism. Ockenga was pastor of the Park Street Church and co-founder of Fuller Theological Seminary, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, the National Association of Evangelicals, and Christianity Today.

Garth RosellDr. Rosell is professor of Church History at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts and has lectured on a variety of college, university and seminary campuses. His most recent book is a history of Park Street Church which celebrates its two hundredth anniversary this year: Boston's Historic Park Street Church: The Story of an Evangelical Landmark.

Free and open to the public. Please bring your lunch.

February 24, 2009

There is still time to register for the workshop on Records Management & Preservation to be held February 27 from 9:30-12:30.

Please contact Susan Thomas at 617-523-0470 x 4 or by email
The fee is $10.00.

Archivist, Jessica Steytler covers basic archival arrangement, writing and maintaining records management policies, preservation and digital issues. Participants will have the opportunity to participate in discussions with other record keepers.

February 20, 2009

"Ringing the Gotchnag" coverAuthor Jonathan Page discusses his recently published book, Ringing the Gotchnag: Two American Missionary Families in Turkey, 1855-1922. This narrative, published by the New England Historic Genealogical Society, details how and why missionary policy changed while illuminating a fascinating tale of New England Christians in the land of the sultan.

Jonathan is a graduate of Harvard College and Yale Divinity School. An ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, he is the Epps Fellow in the Memorial Church, Harvard University.

Jonathan will be available to sign copies of his book. A few copies will be available for sale at the event. Bring your lunch and join us at noon for an informative and engaging discussion. Free and open to the public.

February 6, 2009

What is Congregationalism, and why is it important? This three week mini course will provide a quick orientation, a time-line, and plenty of time for discussion of one of the nation's most influential religious traditions.

Peggy Bendroth, historian of American religion and Director of the Congregational Library, welcomes all students at all levels for a weekly class covering three centuries, from Congregationalism's English Puritan roots to the denominational merger that created the United Church of Christ in 1957. Program fee: $45 for all 3 weeks. Advance registration is required.

For additional information or to register contact Susan Thomas at 617-523-0470 or

February 3, 2009

The Church 2.0: Web Tools for the Tech Savvy Christian workshop on Thursday, February 5 has been canceled. Please check our web site for other events.

January 12, 2009

All those either working on a history of a local congregation, or contemplating doing so, are welcome to drop in to our Library Writers' Group. We will share questions, ideas, issues, and help each other. Writers with manuscripts at all levels welcome. Workshops are led by Library Director Peggy Bendroth. Each session will begin at 12 noon. No charge for this workshop.

For further information contact us at 617-523-0470 or email

Visit us online for a complete list of events, classes, tours, lectures , and more.

January 7, 2009

The library will be closed to the public from Noon until 2 PM on January 14.

The Massachusetts Bible Society is holding a luncheon at the library with our Director Peggy Bendroth as the featured speaker. Her topic is "The People and the Book: A History of the Bible in American Culture".

Reservations are required. For details and to make reservations please see

December 29, 2008

The Library will close at noon on December 31. We will be closed on January 1, 2009. We will reopen at 9 AM on Friday, January 2.

Have a great holiday.

December 24, 2008

Press Release:

December 23, 2008
Press contact: Erin Allen (202) 707-7302,
                     David Taylor (202) 707-1737,



Over many decades, the American Folklife Center (AFC) at the Library of Congress has documented everyday citizens reactions to major historic events in our collective American experience. For instance, man-on-the-street interviews were recorded on the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941; Italian-Americans were documented to celebrate the Columbus Quincentenary in 1992; interviews were conducted with Americans across the nation in the weeks following the tragedy of September 11, 2001; and the Veterans History Project is preserving the personal experience stories of Americans who served the nation in wartime. These voices of ordinary Americans responding to extraordinary events exist as valuable research collections for the scholars of today and they are a cultural legacy preserved for future generations.

On January 20, 2009, the United States will inaugurate Barack Obama, the countrys first African-American president. In anticipation of citizens efforts to mark this historic time around the country, the AFC will be collecting audio and video recordings of sermons and orations that comment on the significance of the inauguration of 2009. It is expected that such sermons and orations will be delivered at churches, synagogues, mosques and other places of worship, as well as before humanist congregations and other secular gatherings. The AFC is seeking as wide a representation of orations as possible. This collection is one of many oral history and spoken word collections at the AFC that preserve American emotions and memories of important cultural events.

Congregations and groups interested in contributing to this once-in-a-lifetime documentary project are asked to record sermons and orations delivered during Inauguration Week 2009 and donate them to the Library of Congress. The donated recordings will be preserved at the AFC in order to enhance the nations historical record and preserve the voices of religious leaders and other orators for researchers and scholars of the future. After being processed by archivists, the collection will be made available to scholars, students and the general public.

Individuals and groups interested in contributing to the Inauguration 2009 Sermons and Orations Project are asked to submit audio and video recordings made in digital or other approved formats. To be accepted into the collection, the recordings must be of sermons and orations that were delivered to congregations and other audiences between Friday, Jan. 16 and Sunday, Jan. 25, 2009.

In addition to audio and video recordings, the AFC is collecting written texts of sermons and orations (submitted in the form of print or electronic media), as well as printed programs from the events during which the sermons and orations were delivered. All submissions must be postmarked by Feb. 27, 2009, and must be accompanied by a signed release form and completed data form, found on the AFC website,

For additional information about the Inauguration 2009 Sermons and Orations Project, including the technical specifications of the recordings that can be accepted, downloadable copies of the required forms, and instructions for submitting collections, please visit, or call the Center at (202) 707-5510 between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday to Friday, Eastern Standard Time.

The Library of Congress, the nation's oldest federal cultural institution, is the world's preeminent reservoir of knowledge, providing unparalleled collections and integrated resources to Congress and the American people. Many of the Library's rich resources and treasures may also be accessed through the Library's Web site and via interactive exhibitions on a new, personalized Web site at

The American Folklife Center was created by Congress in 1976 and placed at the Library of Congress to preserve and present American Folklife through programs of research, documentation, archival preservation, reference service, live performance, exhibition, public programs and training.

PR 08-234

December 19, 2008

The staff of the Congregational Library wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas.

The Library is closing at noon on December 24. We will be closed on December 25 and 26. We will reopen on December 29 at 9:00 AM.

Enjoy your holidays.

December 2, 2008

We will be closing the Library on Monday, December 8 at 1:00 PM to host the tenants Holiday Party in the Library. The party will be followed by the quarterly Board of Directors meeting.

The Library will be open normal hours the remainder of the week.

October 28, 2008

The Library is open Monday-Friday 9:00AM--5:00PM and evenings by appointment.

Tours of the library are available by appointment only during the months of November, December and January. The Tuesday tours are suspended.

October 24, 2008

What's Green and Read All Over?
The Great American Book Drive.

Ever wondered what to do with all those books collecting dust on your shelves, piling up in your closet, or hiding under your bed? On Saturday, November 8th, put them to work for the Prison Book Program and City Mission Society by participating in the launch of The Great American Book Drive. Choose to support reuse, help open doors for prisoners, and promote social justice by donating your gently used books.

Saturday, November 8th
10 am - 3 pm
Brighton-Allston Congregational Church
404 Washington Street
Brighton, MA

Better World Books will sell them to people all over the world who will cherish them...and the Prison Book Program and the City Mission Society will benefit with every sale. It's about literacy, not landfill.

For complete information visit


Help the Prison Book Program and City Mission Society by forwarding this email near and far...

October 22, 2008

Welcome to Susan Thomas, our new administrative assistant. Today's her first day and I think we can promise her that she will not be idle. Her work behind the scenes is critical to keep us running smoothly, so we are grateful to have her part of our small group.

October 1, 2008

The Administrative Assistant works under the direction and in collaboration with the Executive Director and Librarian of the American Congregational Association with responsibilities for general office and library administration.



  • Performs all secretarial and administrative functions (filing, correspondence, event, meeting and travel arrangements, etc.) to assist Executive Director
  • Manages fundraising database and e-newsletter
  • Prepares bank deposits of donations
  • Charts registrations for all classes and library events
  • Maintains all mailing lists
  • Writes thank you letters for donations
  • Creates and circulates quarterly meeting minutes and reports for Board of Directors
  • Carries out related duties as required (bulk mailings)
  • Processes and tracks requests for travel grants
  • Provides Archivist with necessary records for ACA archive
  • Maintains general library record keeping and correspondence
  • Assists Executive Director and/ or Librarian with special projects as assigned
  • Provides general office assistance to Associate Librarian and Archivist as needed



  • Two or four year degree or equivalent work experience
  • One-three years experience working in a church, religious organization, or nonprofit setting
  • Excellent technical skills required, including: Microsoft Office Suite (Excel, Word, Access), bookkeeping, and online donation/fundraising systems
  • Background and/or education in Congregationalism desirable
  • Advanced organizational and analytical skills, and attention to detail
  • Strong oral and written communication skills
  • Ability to work independently and as team member


Please apply by October 17, 2008. To apply please mail or email cover letter and resume to:

Claudette Newhall, Associate Librarian,
Congregational Library,
14 Beacon St., 2nd Floor,
Boston, MA 02108

September 26, 2008

Congregational Church History -- October 14, 21, 28 10:00 AM-3:00 PM

Executive Director, Peggy Bendroth, teaches a course on the history of the Congregational denomination. Reservations required. Each class covers a specific period in the history of Congregationalism. Take one class ($25.00) or all three ($75.00). Scholarships available. Contact Peggy at or 617-523-0470.


Cultivating a Church Library -- October 18 9:30 AM-12:30 PM

Librarian, Claudette Newhall, leads a class in creating, managing, and promoting your church library/resource center. Topics covered are starting a library, managing and organizing an existing or new library, promoting the library, and obtaining necessary resources. A bibliography will be provided. The cost of the class is $10.00. Contact Claudette at or 617-523-0470.


Walking Tour of Congregational Boston -- By request and reservation only -- $10.00

Executive Director, Peggy Bendroth, guides participants to the city's famous Congregational landmarks, from Old South Church to Park Street Church. Contact Peggy at or 617-523-0470.


Library Tour - In October by request and reservation only -- Free

Librarian, Claudette Newhall, leads a tour on the history of the library. Contact Claudette at or 617-523-0470.


More events coming in November and December.

September 25, 2008

We've received some new books you may be interested in borrowing.

Dry Bones and Indian Sermons: Praying Indians in Colonial America by Kristina Bross
More information in the Amazon review

The Healer's Calling: Women and Medicine in Early New England by Rebecca J. Tannenbaum
More information in the Amazon review

Artillery of Heaven: American Missionaries and the Failed Conversion of the Middle East by Ussama Makdisi
More information in the Amazon review

September 10, 2008

Jessica will be offering her "Archives 2.0" class again this fall at the Simmons main campus. There's a dizzying number of new technologies that are out there that weren't there five years ago. They can be overwhelming when experimenting with them on your own. This will be an overview of (but not necessarily limited to) wikis, alternatives to social networking, Google documents, RSS feeds.

Contact Kris Liberman at Simmons Continuing Ed. to sign up. Deadline September 29th.

September 8, 2008

Peggy Bendroth's A School of the Church: Andover Newton across Two Centuries, will be celebrated with a book release party on September 18 from 5-7pm here in the reading room. There will be copies of the book available for sale and we will serve light refreshments.

Please RSVP with Claudette Newhall by September 15.

A reminder that Jessica will be offering her Records Management class in Exeter, NH on September 22nd from 6-8pm. Cost: $15, deadline for registering is September 15.

For those who have already attended the Records Management class (previously known as Research 101), there is a luncheon in Lexington on September 18 from 11:30-1:30. Cost: $15, deadline for registering is September 15.

A recently developed class, New Technologies in a Church Setting will be offered on September 24 here at the library from 9:30-2:30.This class is designed to be an introduction to some useful and inexpensive (or free) tools that can help a church communicate more efficiently and reach new people. Find out what the hub-bub is about wikis, blogs, Google documents, and more.   Lunch will be provided and there will be some time to explore the new material online. Cost: $20, deadline for registration September 19.

Contact Jessica Steytler to resister for these events.

For a complete description of these events and more, please visit our website.